Tuesday is Election Day for some voters in Haywood County — Republicans and unaffiliated voters who chose the GOP ballot in the 11th Congressional District primary.
Appearing on the ballot will be just two candidates — Lynda Bennett of Haywood County and Madison Cawthorn of Henderson County.
The two Republicans are squaring off in a second primary to see who will represent the state’s 11th Congressional District in the General Election.
The race to see which Republican will advance has been a rollercoaster.
The first primary featured three candidates who amassed a sizable chunk of the vote — Bennett, 22.7 percent; Cawthorn, who received 20.4 percent and Macon County’s Jim Davis, who received 19.3 percent respectively. Since no candidate garnered 30 percent of the vote, a runoff was called for.
Western Carolina University Political Science professor Chris Cooper said that while he initially thought Bennett was the front runner, based on her being the top vote getter in the first primary, he’s changed his tune recently.
“To me the prediction is this is a close race, and I think that’s a surprise,” he said.
When looking at voting trends, Cooper had a few key observations. First, there was a rise in mail-in voting, which he attributes to both COVID-19 and the resulting heightened awareness of that being an option.
In addition, he noted that while Buncombe County is “underperforming” and Haywood has turned out about as many voters as predicted, Macon and Henderson counties have seen a higher-than-expected turnout.
Cooper noted that Henderson County’s high turnout works to Cawthorn’s benefit while Macon County likely works to Bennett’s benefit, since she amassed more votes there during the first primary.
Cooper said that whoever wins will have to hit the fundraising hard right away, since both candidates spent quite a bit in the first two primaries while Moe Davis has been able to focus on the general election.
“Whoever wins has had to spend a good bit of their campaign cash, so they’ll have to re-up,” he said. “We can presume their burn rate is probably pretty high.”
Haywood County Board of Elections Director Robbie Inman said he thinks the voter turnout has been slightly higher than expected. He said he believes his poll workers have done a good job of maintaining the safest practices regarding COVID-19, even though some voters aren’t too conscientious.
“The part that cannot be mandated is the willingness of the citizens to do their part,” he said. “Everything else has gone very well.”
Inman said that while Tuesday’s final day of voting will likely turnout a greater crowd than during early voting, he feels confident it will go smoothly.
He is still concerned about preparations for November’s general election, however, which will see a far higher voter turnout because a presidential election is at stake.
Polls will open Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Voters will cast their vote at their assigned precincts.